Four Quick Hits on Klinsmann’s May Roster

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called in 27 players for a training camp in Orlando, Florida, ahead of the team’s three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers in the next three weeks.

While there was arguably only one surprise selection—that of Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi—there were a few surprising omissions and one player who unexpectedly declined Klinsmann’s invite. (See entire roster at bottom.)

Here are four thoughts on the roster:

It’s time to jettison Timmy Chandler. The 22-year-old Nuremberg defender said “Thanks, but no thanks” to Klinsmann’s offer, turning down the U.S. for the second time in two years. He did have a busy season, but clearly, he’s still holding out hope for a call-up from Germany. (Appearing in a WC qualifier would have tied him to the U.S. forever.) But just like Germany has other options at outside back, so does the U.S. The rock-solid veteran Steve Cherundolo is not done yet, and two guys who are on this roster, Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson, can fill the role as capably as Chandler—or better, in the case of Johnson. Also: Edgar Castillo had a tremendous season at Club Tijuana this year, and Eric Lichaj, who was (somewhat surprisingly) not called in for this camp, came on strong for Aston Villa at the end of the season. Other possibilities include Birmingham City’s Jonathan Spector, and up-and-coming Molde defender/winger Josh Gatt. Chandler showed fairly well in his friendly appearances for the U.S., but it’s time to move on.

They need to play with two forwards—and those forwards’ names should be Dempsey and Altidore. Ever since Klinsmann took over, there’s been much talk about instituting a 4-3-3, with many observers claiming to have spotted that formation in action for the U.S. We are not in that group. We’ve only ever seen a 4-5-1 (or a 4-2-3-1) or a 4-4-2 in the Klinsmann era. Frankly, the team has looked best in a 4-4-2, which is essentially their native formation. It’s more sound defensively, as it allows for two defensive-minded midfielders, it creates more possession, and perhaps most important, it doesn’t leave a lone forward stranded up top, struggling to hold possession and combine with teammates. Dempsey (23 goals for Fulham) and Altidore (19 for AZ Alkmaar) are both coming off career years. It’s time to see what they can do up top together.

Which uninvited player was dealt the biggest snub? The quick answer here is Sacha Kljestan, the midfielder fresh from a championship season at Anderlecht. But Kljestan is competing against a deep and talented midfield and he doesn’t bring anything new to the table, while lacking some of the attributes of his competition (speed, for starters). So we say it’s a tie between Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj. Shea was a part of every single previous Klinsmann setup, and Lichaj plays a position (outside back) that needs to be re-stocked for the future. (There’s depth there, as we said, and it’s time to start tapping it.)

Goal poachers Gomez and Wondolowski need to make the most of deserved call-ups. Gomez has been lighting it up in Mexico the past two seasons, and won a championship with Santos Laguna this year. Wondolowski leads MLS in scoring with 11 goals in 12 games. They’ve been properly rewarded by Klinsmann, but can they do it at the international level? Gomez had some success in the U.S. shirt in the run-up to South Africa 2010, but Wondo has yet to score in seven appearances for the Yanks. It’s Gomez’s first chance under Klinsmann, but it could be the last for both.

The team will be whittled to 23 players on Friday, May 25, and that group will take on Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday May 26 (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), before traveling to Landover, MD, to meet Brazil on Wednesday May 30 (8:00, ESPN2).

On June 3, they’ll meet Canada at Toronto’s BMO Field (7:00, NBCSN), and then they’ll open the 2014 World Cup qualifying tournament with a match against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8 in Tampa (7:00, ESPN). Following that one comes the first true test of the Klinsmann era, a World Cup qualifier in the unwelcoming climes of Guatemala City (10:00 p.m., only on pay-per-view).

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (7): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

DC, Portland Miss Opportunities In Playoff Chase

Playing at home, with a chance to gain an advantage over New York in the playoff race, both DC United and the Portland Timbers surrendered leads and stumbled to ties, against Chivas USA and San Jose, respectively.

In DC, the Black-and-Red took a 2-0 lead through Dwayne De Rosario and Ethan White, only to give up two second-half goals to Chivas striker Juan Pablo Angel.

De Rosario then had a penalty saved by the Goats’ superhero goalkeeper, Dan Kennedy, and the match ended 2-2, leaving DC one point behind New York in the playoff standings instead of one ahead.

At Portland’s usually impregnable fortress known as JELD-WEN Field, the home team took a 1-0 lead after rookie Darlington Nagbe set up Kenny Cooper nine minutes in. But the Timbers couldn’t add to their lead, and San Jose tied it up in the 70th on Khari Stephenson’s seeing eye shot from the top of the box.

Had they won, the Timbers would have been three points clear of New York in the tenth and final playoff spot.

As it is, they have a one-point edge heading into their pivotal visit to Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.

(DC has two games in hand on both New York and Portland. Click here for the current playoff standings.)

MLS Lands Three-Year Broadcast Deal with NBC

This is shaping up to be a massive news day, and the BP World HQ are all a-scramble. In addition to the news out of Montreal and from England, the Jurgen Klinsmann Era gets under way tonight, there is movement on the Freddy Adu front (more on that later), and there’s this: Major League Soccer and NBC Sports announced a three-year contract, starting with the 2012 MLS season, to broadcast MLS games on NBC and NBC Sports Network.

(The NBC Sports Network is Versus, re-branded, so if you have Versus, you have NBCSN).

The deal will put 45 MLS games and four U.S. men’s national team matches on NBC and NBC Sports Network each season. (ESPN will continue to broadcast its MLS Game of the Week until 2014.)

Here’s the commish:

“Our new partnership with the NBC Sports Group is a significant step forward for Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer. The NBC Sports Group is world-renowned for its award-winning coverage, superb broadcast quality, and promotional expertise. We are excited to be part of NBC’s ambitious plans for soccer, and look forward to reaching a considerable audience on multiple platforms.”

For more on this, see here and here.

Watching this Interview May Cause Dust Levels to Rise in Your Immediate Vicinity

New DC United striker Charlie Davies spoke to regional Washington network CSN following his sensational MLS debut on Saturday:

Davies entered the game in the 52nd minute and scored two goals to lead the Black-and-Red to a 3-1 win over Columbus in their home opener at RFK.

For a full recap of Major League Soccer’s opening weekend, check out our column over at the MLS site.

Highlights: Davies’ First Intrasquad Scrimmage with D.C.

U.S. striker Charlie Davies played all 60 minutes of D.C. United’s Red vs Black training-camp scrimmage today. He made a mark early, helping to set up the Red team’s first goal by pressuring keeper Steve Cronin into a poor clearance that Brandon Barklage pounded home for a 1-0 lead.

Davies later crossed nicely for Chinese international Yang Men, whose header was kept out by Cronin.

Highlights here:

After the session, D.C. coach Ben Olsen was predictably guarded regarding Davies, saying, “We need to see more. This was a good first day, but we will continue to look at [Davies] over the next week.”

United has two preseason friendlies scheduled for Monday. They’ll play the Canada U-20 national team in the morning, and Florida International University in the afternoon.

Charlie Davies on One-Week Trial with DC United

U.S. striker Charlie Davies has joined DC United in their Fort Lauderdale, Fla., training camp for a weeklong training stint and evaluation by the team’s medical staff.

Davies is looking to resurrect his career after an Oct 13, 2009 car crash—in the DC suburb of Arlington, Va.—that nearly took his life and did claim that of the vehicle’s driver, Ashley J. Roberta.

There is a 12-month loan deal in place for the Sochaux [France] forward, provided he passes muster with DC’s medical and soccer staffs.

Here is the Black-and-Red’s official statement:

“Charlie Davies is expected to join D.C. United in Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday for a week-long evaluation period, which will include training and game time with the first team and a full medical evaluation by team doctors in D.C. Details of a 12-month loan have already been negotiated, but nothing will be official until D.C. United is satisfied Charlie is physically capable of playing at the level required to be successful in MLS.”

Davies was on the rise with the U.S. national team and at the club level when the accident occurred, and he had hoped to recover in time to make the 2010 U.S. World Cup team. He made remarkable progress in rehabilitating his injuries—which included a broken right femur and tibia, a broken left elbow, a torn knee ligament, facial fractures, and a lacerated bladder—but was not ready to go in late May, when coach Bob Bradley had to name his final 23 for South Africa.

Since then, Davies has returned to training with Sochaux but made fitful progress, playing only in reserve matches.

U.S. fans may have appreciated Davies’ qualities more keenly in their absence. At South Africa 2010, the  Yanks certainly could have used a striker with his combination of speed, skill and finishing ability, all on display here:

If Davies can even approach his pre-accident form, he will do well in MLS and have a chance of reviving his once-promising career.

Considering what he’s been through, of course, that’s a big if.

We wish him well, and we sincerely hope that episodes like this are completely behind him.

Which U.S. Newbies Should Go to Cairo on Feb. 9?

We’ve said it before, but after this past Saturday’s friendly against Chile, it bears repeating: no two observers of a U.S. national team game will come away with the same impression.

Take a look at the player ratings here, here, here, and here to get an idea of what we mean.

One observer called central midfielder Dax McCarty “Xavi light” (a huge reach), while another said he was industrious but inconsistent (closer to reality). There were also notably mixed reviews for Zach Loyd, Brek Shea, Mikkel Diskerud and Sean Franklin.

The only players who drew a consensus in the postgame breakdowns were Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, and Tim Ream—and on the negative side, Marvell Wynne.

Just to add to the Tower of Babel of analysis, we happen to disagree on those last two.

Ream had a good game, and he started the play that led to the U.S. equalizer, but, as often happens when he plays with New York (we watched every game last season), he seemingly made one dangerous giveaway for every two pinpoint passes out of the back.

He made two howlers on Saturday, and on the second one, he was bailed out by … everyone’s whipping boy, Marvell Wynne.

Wynne was unanimously dismissed following his debut at center-back (he’d previously played out wide for the U.S.), but we would still leave the door open for this player if we were in charge. He wasn’t as lost versus Chile as critics claimed, and his athleticism is completely off the charts. If he improves his positioning and reading of the game, he can contribute for the U.S.

In any event, only a few of the players from the Chile match (if any) will be a part of the U.S. squad when it faces reigning African champions Egypt on Feb 9 in Cairo.

That’s a FIFA international fixture date, so coach Bob Bradley will have access to all of his foreign-based first-team players. (Sidenote: how will in-form midfielder Stuart Holden fit into that one? Not to mention recent Blackburn Man-of-the-Match Jermaine Jones.)

Which youngsters will he choose to integrate into his first-choice squad? If he takes any at all, this is how we see it breaking down:

Likely:

Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream

The U.S. coach is known for bringing along youngsters slowly, but considering the U.S.’s thinness at forward, he might include the 18-year-old Agudelo and see how he mixes with the first-choice veterans.

Ream is older (23) and clearly has the potential to succeed the likes of Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit in the center of defense. It’s doubtful that any of those three will be with the U.S. come Brazil 2014.

Possible:

Teal Bunbury

Along with Agudelo (and a handful of designated players), Bunbury will be one of the most interesting players to watch in MLS this season. He came on very strong at the end of last year, and carried the momentum into an offseason of a lifetime (goalfest in Spain with the Generation adidas team, national-team debut, first national-team goal, and Pablo Ramirez–aided YouTube fame).

Mikkel Diskerud

He wasn’t great against Chile, but may have been ill-suited to his first-half role. When Agudelo and Bunbury came in to give the U.S. two strikers, Mix livened up and looked more effective. The U.S. needs players with his Feilhaber-esque skill and creativity.

Sleeper:

Zach Loyd

He doesn’t even start for FC Dallas (though that could change this year), so it may be a reach to tab him for a full international against the African champions. But Loyd is competing for the left-back position, where the U.S. hasn’t had a completely reliable option for years. He was overexcited at times versus Chile, but he’s highly athletic and made some impressive plays on Saturday. Don’t count him out.